01/31/2008 12:00AM

Texas Fever takes a detour


A victory in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park often means a colt can write his ticket anywhere. After all, the Juvenile has been won by such standouts as Tejano Run, Boston Harbor, Point Given, and Vindication during its 14-year history.

So after Texas Fever won the Juvenile last September at the Florence, Ky., track, no one could blame the folks at Stonerside Stable, who bred and own the Victory Gallop colt, or trainer Mike Stidham, for entertaining thoughts of grandeur.

And yet, two resounding defeats later, Texas Fever will be back Saturday at Turfway for the $50,000 WEBN Stakes, which seems rather curious for a Kentucky Cup winner. Although the one-mile WEBN is a stepping-stone to the March 1 John Battaglia Memorial, then the March 22 Lane's End Stakes, the race hardly is a conventional stopover for horses with bona fide Kentucky Derby aspirations.

"We still think he has quite a bit of potential," said Stidham.

Texas Fever finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last October, then was seventh of eight in his 3-year-old debut, the Lecomte Handicap three weeks ago at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

"He ran a pretty good race in the Breeders' Cup, then we sent him straight to Stonerside after that for a little bit of freshening," said Stidham. "In the Lecomte, he got in a bit of a trap when they slowed the pace down, and he was just trying to run off the whole way. Our options were not great on what to do next, but we felt maybe with the Battaglia coming up, this was a good way to see where we are. His best races may end up being on the Polytrack and turf anyway, so that's why we're back there at Turfway with him."

Texas Fever "worked and stepped on a van" Wednesday at Fair Grounds, and by Thursday morning the colt already was bedded down at Turfway.

Texas Fever, with Rodney Prescott to ride, is one of 13 3-year-olds, including one also-eligible, entered in the WEBN. He figures as a solid favorite in a race that has U.S. Cavalry and Mr. Harry as the most logical upsetters.

The WEBN is the 11th of 12 races on a card that also includes two allowances.